The Coca-Cola Company (KO): The Biggest And The Best

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The Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc (NYSE:CCE) is generally regarded as one of the safest, smartest investments in the market, and for good reason.  With an ever-increasing dividend, a great balance sheet, share buybacks, and a steady increase in share price, Coca-Cola has been a rock-solid investment for its shareholders.  Even though The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE:KO) has been in business since 1886, the company still manages to grow its revenue at an impressive pace, from $19.6 billion in 2002 to $46.5 billion last year, a 137% increase during the past decade alone!

With the company set to report earnings, I don’t foresee any major surprises.  However, there are a few questions investors have, such as how the company plans to grow going forward, and what impact the acquisition of Coca Cola Enterprises’ North American operations has had.

The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE:KO)Company Profile

Pretty much everyone knows that Coca Cola is the world leader in soft drinks.  What some investors don’t realize is that Coca Cola is also the world’s largest producer of juices and juice-related products under brand names such as Minute Maid.  Coca-Cola derives 44% of its revenues from North America, with the rest coming from Europe (10.3%), Asia (11.7%), Latin America (9.5%), and Africa (5.8%).  The rest of the company’s income comes from the company’s investments in their bottling operations around the world.

Acquisitions and Growth Strategy

The cornerstone of Coca-Cola’s growth strategy recently has been through acquisitions.  Notable acquisitions include the 2007 purchase of Glaceau (Vitamin Water) for $4.1 billion, several brands in Denmark and Finland in 2008, and its 2011 acquisition of Great Plains and Honest Tea.

Also, as I mentioned before, in October 2010, the company acquired the North American bottling operations from Coca Cola Enterprises for about $12.3 million.  The company also sold its bottling operations in Norway and Sweden to CCE at the same time.  This additional operation accounts for most of the giant jump in revenue from 2010-2011, from $35.1 billion to $46.5 billion, as well as the increase in Coca Cola’s long term debt from $5 billion in 2009 to $14 billion the next year.

Coca Cola Enterprises is now the third largest independent bottler in the world, focusing on European markets.  I would be cautious on investing in Coca Cola Enterprises, at least until the economic climate in Europe improves.  Additionally, the stock has shot up about 20% since November, so I would wait for a pullback before even considering it.

Coca Cola also actively enters into currency options and exchange contracts to minimize the risk of currency fluctuations on their bottom line.  With the majority of the company’s growth potential overseas, this is a very prudent move.

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